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Fresh perspectives or brain drain?

If there's one sure thing to spark controversy it's the creation of a league table based on subjective opinions. In this, Windpower Monthly's ranking of the top 30 leaders in the wind industry is likely to be no exception, even if the judging came from industry associations, our readers and our editorial team.

In our defence, this year was made harder by a large number of departures from the previous headliners. Not least was last year's number one, Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel after his sacking in August. Other notables included GE's Vic Abate, Repower chief technical officer Andreas Schubert and EWEA's chief executive Christian Kjaer, all of whom could have been considered industry stalwarts.

The departure of so many high-profile figures raises the question of where the expertise goes, how long it will take to replace this experience and whether the industry will suffer as a result. Interestingly, two of these high-level departures come from large-scale PLCs and were replaced by company insiders. In Abate's case it was Anne McEntee, while Siemens replaced CEO Felix Ferlemann with Markus Tacke. Both replacements came from their company's oil and gas divisions. A cynical question would be: were they brought in for what they can bring to wind power or because they know the company?

It is also curious that many of the high-level departures leave the industry rather than joining another industry player, which illustrates a curious level of loyalty within the industry.

On the other hand, the experience of people coming in from other sectors should bring fresh ideas. In the case of McEntee and Tacke, it will be interesting to see what they offer from a related sector, albeit a distant one. Meanwhile, Vestas' new CEO Anders Runevad is likely to bring the painful experience of missing out on a new disruptive technology, in this case the rise of smartphones while at Ericsson.

Profit potential

These new hands come into an industry that is still emerging from a difficult period. But our research in this quarter's Windicator (page 53)shows the painful cost-cutting programmes of the last 18 months are starting to pay off for manufacturers, with Vestas and Nordex both set for their first pre-tax profits since 2010. There are still problems, however - most notable this month is German offshore developer Windreich's insolvency - and this year's global installation figure is likely to be less than 2012. But the industry appears to be moving towards making money rather than saving it.

Our interview with another newcomer to the wind industry, GE's head of Europe, reveals the company's plans to be proactive across Europe, particularly in Germany where recent installations have been low, and new markets of Turkey and Russia, where GE has significant business interests.

If it succeeds, it should go a long way to toppling this year's most influential, Enercon's managing director Nicole Fritsch-Nehring, who went straight to the top after taking over from company founder Aloys Wobben this year. It should also help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms from last year's intensive production-tax-credit-led US orders that led it to become the first or second wind turbine manufacturer in the world — depending on which league you look at.

James Quilter is associate editor of Windpower Monthly

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